Dual citizenship cannot disqualify Nigerians from contesting elections – APC tells Lagos Governorship Election Tribunal

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has filed its written address at the Lagos State Governorship Election Tribunal, while describing the petition submitted by the Governorship Candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, as “wishy-washy”.

In its 36-page final written address to the tribunal, the APC in its response to the petition of Rhodes-Vivour also submitted that no evidence had been put before the 3 man panel to sway its mind that the votes cast for Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu were not lawful or that the election was not conducted in substantial compliance with the relevant laws.

Citing relevant provisions of the laws and decided authorities, the APC submitted that dual citizenship does not disqualify a Nigerian by birth from contesting the elections, while making reference to deputy governor, Obafemi Hamzat.

Rhodes-Vivour who was dissatisfied with the outcome of the March 18 governorship elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had on April 9th filed a 271-page petition to challenge the return of Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat.
The LP Governorship candidate who is the sole petitioner listed three grounds on which his petition is based. He alleged that Gov. Sanwo-Olu and his deputy were not qualified to contest the election.
In facts put before the Tribunal to support his petition, Rhodes-Vivour particularly contended that deputy governor, Obafemi Hamzat, contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2020, allowed himself to be nominated while still being a citizen of the USA and after denouncing his allegiance to Nigeria.

The petitioner contended that by reason of the disqualification of both men, all votes recorded for them and the APC are wasted and he is therefore entitled to be declared the winner of the election being the candidate with the second highest number of lawful votes cast.

In response to the petition, the APC filed a reply on May 2nd contesting the facts as stated by the petitioner and objecting to the competence of his petition.

During the trial, Rhodes-Vivour called a total of 10 witnesses including ward leaders, coordinators and 4 others who were subpoenaed. The petitioner also tendered over 20,000 documents including certified true copies of INEC Forms EC9, EC8A & B, Form EC40A, Form EC40G, BVAS report and CTC of judgments.

The APC at the close of the Petitioners case called only one witness through whom it tendered its relevant documents.
Channels TV obtained a copy of the APC’s final written address to the petition. It was filed on Friday, the 21st of July by the legal team of the APC led by Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Abiodun Owonikoko, and 17 other lawyers.

In its summation of the evidence of the petitioner, the APC says that the testimonies of 6 of the Petitioners Witnesses “fell like a pack of cards” as the witnesses all admitted that they were not polling unit agents and part of their testimonies were hearsays based on what their agents relayed to them. The party also made the point that the petitioner only called 2 or 3 polling agents in far-flung polling stations.

On the testimony of a subpoenaed witness, an immigration attorney resident in the US on the alleged dual citizenship of the deputy governor, the APC particularly noted that she was not from the Home Secretary Office or any of the Government Department of the USA. She also did not present before the Tribunal the immigration document allegedly signed by Obafemi Hamzat to show his non-eligibility but merely gave her opinions based on assumptions.

It also submitted that the petitioner misconstrued the provisions of Section 29 of the constitution as he failed to lead any evidence to prove that Obafemi Hamzat ever applied to the President for the renunciation of his Nigerian citizenship neither is there any shred of evidence to prove that once he took the oath of allegiance of the USA, he would have been boxed into a corner and lost the right to contest for public office in Nigeria.

The APC also said that Clause 14 of the latest issued American Passport, provides that a citizen of America is entitled to enjoy all the rights and privileges of the country of his birth anytime he is outside the USA.

On the issue of the incomplete form EC9 of Obafemi Hamzat, the party said this was outside the jurisdiction of the tribunal being a pre-election complaint about a form submitted to INEC as far back as July 2022.

The APC says it is clear from it submissions that the petition was brought to the Tribunal “dead on arrival”, as the petitioner failed woefully to prove any of the grounds.


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